I feel there are no words for this occasion, nothing appropriate to say or do. I want to thank you all for being here and for the tremendous support we have received. During our time of grieving, my dad made the comment that it’s hard to separate friends and family, and that’s really been true. Your prayers and thoughts have certainly been deeply felt by all of us and have given us a strange sense of peace through this entire process. Like the old hymn says, it has enabled me to say “It is Well,” though this certainly is not what I would like to be doing today. So, let us gather together now, as a family, and remember the beautiful person that was my sister. I am reminded of an old Noël Coward song called “I Went to a Marvelous Party.” In the song, Coward tells about this wonderful party he’s been to, the scandals and shenanigans, and how he relished every second of it. My sister’s life was a long, wonderful party, as her Facebook status says she was “luvin life” until the very end. Let us celebrate that life now.
My sister was such a special person and will always be such a huge part of my life, it’s impossible to imagine it without her. My sister was a clever, smart, beautiful girl, a class act. She was strong and spontaneous and sassy, a free spirit, an individual. Like her granny and her aunt Debbie, she was a quiet, at times shy person – that is until you knew her. She liked back corners, secrets, being out of the way, never the center of attention. She never wanted to be the star or have a lot of people around her – she usually left that to me. Well Jessica, sorry to tell you but I think you’re a big hit today. More of an introvert than extravert, she was the person you wanted to stand next to in the back of the room or sit next to at big dinners. She had such a wealth of wonderful qualities: her inquisitive mind, her love of science, her dry wit and sense of humor, her staunch beliefs, spitfire attitude, and go-getter spirit. She was our Annie Oakley, Marie Curie, Dorothy Parker, Amelia Earheart. Never one to worry or get all boo-hooey, she loved to laugh when I broke down. One time when we were quite young, Mom and Jessica ran over my cat in the driveway on their way to pick me up. As they were driving, Mom told Jessica, “Now, we’re just not going to tell Bradley right away, we have to be gentle.” Upon seeing me, Jessica blurted out, “Well Bradley, you’re cat’s dead, just dead, just flat in the road.” Needless to say, I fell to pieces. I can remember but only a few times when my sister was ever afraid, ever backed down, ever was anyone but herself. I can think of the long line of people that got in her way, made her stamp her foot, the trails she blazed, how she could certainly give ‘em hell. My sister was a fighter her entire life, whether it was me or Christopher, Mom and Dad, her teachers, her friends, boys, animals, she was no shrinking violet. Speaking of giving them hell, one day while she and our parents were out, I was at home watching Christopher. Laying on the couch with a fever, I assumed Christopher was quietly playing in his room. What he was actually doing was giving her favorite stuffed seal a very short hair cut. The fire that exploded from her eyes when she got home. “CHRISTOPHER!!!” He was not allowed on the blue carpet in her room for another 5 years.
She had a love for life, was fascinated by it on the deepest levels. The magic of science enthralled her, she gravitated towards exploring, knowledge, and the intricacies of life. I remember my Mom telling me about a young scientist day at Purdue where Jessica got to put her hand in a cow’s stomach – she loved it. Gross. Her love for animals, as well as people, I can think of no one more humane than my sister. The decision to donate her organs was a very difficult one for my family, but one I am so glad we made. Jessica was indignant about being a donor. On account of a low iron count, Jessica as not able to give blood until very recently – and boy did it make her mad when she couldn’t. She would call up Mom, “Can you believe it?” mad as a hornet’s nest. While recently at school, she called my Mom, ecstatic that she was able to finally give. I know she would be delighted and fascinated by the organ operation itself, the intricacies and delicacies of those inner, essential parts of life. My sister was no weeping willow, but she had a heart of gold and a mind to help, to give, to love. Her message was always one of actions, very seldom of words.
I started a blog this fall called Bradley from the Broad Meadow, mostly about me, my family, and my recent move to New York City. While I may be from the Broad Meadow (it’s what my name means), she was emphatically of the broad meadow, a country girl if I ever saw one. She liked to play in the dirt, to touch and feed the animals, go fishing, get messy, and run free. One time she even swallowed a worm. When asked why she did this, she said she was kissing it. My sister liked fire and knives and scissors; she liked danger. While at the hospital, someone told me that I was her hero, but in reality, in so many ways she was mine. Jessica was never scared of anything, was never worried about making others happy or what they’d think, but rather was always true to herself. And boy, did she love every second of her time here on Earth.
For a lot of my life, Jessica followed me around, from one thing to another. Whether wondering around the house or from activity to activity, she was there. At times, she followed me onto the stage. In one of my first musicals, Jessica played the daughter of a wealthy woman, played a brat. I was so ticked that she had a bigger part than me, I would say to Mom, “She’s not even acting!” She followed me into the kitchen, famous for her many pies, especially the pumpkin ones made with a real pumpkin. One time when I was attempting a big dinner, Jessica came into the kitchen wanting to help or participate, and I told her to, “get out of my kitchen!” I know it’s hard to imagine me pulling any diva moves like that, but please try. She followed me onto the bus, into the Focus program, marching band, and to the Indiana Academy. There, we both learned so much about ourselves and allowed our dreams to set sail. Throughout all those things, I know she cringed when someone said, “Oh, you’re Bradley’s sister,” always eager to make her own way and prove herself. The important thing is that our parents never pushed into any of these things, never forced us to do, or not do anything. They allowed us to dream, to explore, to fly free. Now, Jessica flies free forever.
Jessica, I love you so much. If there is anyone I ever took for granted, it is you and I am so sorry. Sorry that I couldn’t be there for you, sorry that this happened to you, sorry that I will never see your mischievous face again or hear your little giggle, sorry that I won’t have anyone to gossip with in those secret back corners. My sister, my secret keeper, my confidant, my friend. Sister Jessica, I love you